, the first form of Capoeira
, has its roots in Bantu
tradition and was used by the enslaved Africans of Brazil
as a form of revolution. In keeping with African war strategies, Capoeirista
s masked the art's effectiveness from plantation
overseers. Then and today, to uninformed onlookers the art appeared to be a harmless demonstration of dance
s, play and music.
Slave owners eventually learned of the skill and power of Capoeira and outlawed the practice, death being the penalty for any involvement during the period of slavery in Brazil. Capoeira became the art of freedom. So troublesome was Capoeira that, during a later period, a few penal colonies were constructed primarily for the imprisonment of capoeiristas.
When Brazil was emancipated from slavery, thousands of ex-slaves were cast into world, penniless and jobless. Fighting off destitution, many turned to robbery and thievery, using Capoeira to trick and subdue their victims. Authorities lashed out at the sudden surge of criminal activity, associating Capoeira with the crimes. The practice of Capoeira was outlawed again. For years Capoeira was practiced in secrecy and was not lawful to practice or teach until the 1930s--about forty years after the abolition of slavery. Mestre Bimba and his Capoeira Regional helped save Capoeira from its near extinction, persuading the Brazilian government to legalize Capoeira as a form of culture history.